During the late nineties and into the early years of the 21st Century, GMA 7 had a then-uncommon approach to getting primetime viewership, by putting anime series at times when other networks had evening news or soap operas on air. One of the anime programs shown in those times, and for a certain period a household name with teens and adults, was a mature-skewing series about a master thief entitled “Lupin III.” Together with his hang and girlfriend/rival, Lupin pulled off impressive heists around the world while evading the determined but hapless Interpol inspector Zenigata.
“Lupin III” as a media is actually decades old, with the earliest anime from 1971 (hence the old-style look). It was also based on a manga that began publication in 1967, created by Kazuhiko Kato who used the pen name “Monkey Punch.” Sadly, The Japan Times reports that Monkey Punch had passed away two weeks ago, April 11, due to pneumonia. He was 81 years old. Kato’s manga career began in 1965 under an assumed name before adopting his Monkey Punch nom de guerre one year before he started work on “Lupin III” for the Shukan Manga Action comic anthology.
TMS Entertainment, the anime production company that has handled the anime adaptation of Monkey Punch’s most famous creation, tweeted their condolences on social media last April 17. In Japanese fashion regarding departing famous figures in the country, several days have already passed before official news of his death was announced.
Kazuhiko Kato took Arsene Lupin III, based off the original Lupin character by French author Maurice LeBlanc (Lupin III was supposedly the French Lupin’s half-Japanese grandson) on wacky and action-packed adventures around the globe looking for the next big heist. In “Lupin III” he is accompanied by an American sharpshooter who goes by the name Daisuke Jigen, a swordsman thief named Goemon Ishikawa XIII, and the unpredictably untrustworthy but sexy Fujiko Mine.
The anime spans five TV series (the latest in 2018), on spinoff, three anime specials, nine anime films, three anime miniseries on video, two live-action films (the latest in 2014), and several videogames. Aside from the anime aired by GMA 7, the network also ran a 2007 soap opera adaptation starring Richard Gutierrez.
Monkey Punch was also a pioneer in drawing manga by computer, a practice that has since become the norm in the manga industry. He also taught the art in several Japanese universities during the 2000’s.
Image courtesy of Asahi Shimbun